Sunday 28 February 2016

To Go Back To Their Paradise Lost

John Prescott writes:

There’s nothing British ­politicians like more than a legally-binding referendum 

In the past five years we’ve asked the Scots if they want ­independence, Brits if they’d like to change the voting system and ­Falklanders if they want to stay part of Britain. 

Now for the next four months you’ll be bored silly by politicians asking if you want to leave or remain in the European Union. 

But for 50 years we have failed to ask one group of British subjects one simple question: Do you want to go back to the island home we forced you from? 

This year is the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest human rights injustices Britain has ever committed. Forcing the people of the Chagos Islands from their ocean paradise as part of a squalid arms deal with the US. 

Up to 2,000 men, women and ­children had to flee their British Indian Ocean territory after Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson leased the islands to America so it could be used as a military airbase during the 1960s cold war. 

In return, we got a cheaper deal on Polaris nuclear weapons. 

The islanders were all expelled, most fled in fear after their dogs were rounded up and slaughtered by US military contractors. 

The implicit threat was that if you don’t leave, you’ll be next! Forget the Scottish Referendum. This was a real Project Fear. 

Most are now living as stateless second-class citizens in poverty across the world. Many settled in Britain. A Government survey of ­Chagossians living here found 98 per cent still want to return home. 

Not only were their human rights breached but their home, Diego Garcia, was used by the Americans to carry out acts of illegal rendition and bombing missions during the so-called War on Terror. 

That 50-year lease runs out this year. 

William Hague, when he was Foreign Secretary , started the process of consultation on future settlement of the Chagossians, to be completed before any further lease to the US was considered. 

A parliamentary group of nearly 50 MPs and peers from 10 different political parties has constantly pressed the Government to consider the rights of the islanders before any decision is made. 

The chairman Andrew Rosindell has written on behalf of the group to both President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron to finalise a proper agreement, which recognises social justice and the human rights of the Chagossians. 

It is understood the Americans are quite prepared to play a positive role in the issue of resettlement. 

Obama, in his last year of office, has now sought to resolve the dispute between Cuba and America after 60-odd years. That includes a commitment to shut down the island’s US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. 

Our prime minister must now intervene, especially as there are significant differences between the Foreign Office and the Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon. 

It didn’t help when Fallon visited the Falklands to stir up dissent between Britain and Argentina. This Cold Bore Warrior Fallon chose to justify his visit in the name of security and defence in view of the Falklanders’ referendum to remain part of Britain.

If it is right to hold a referendum on the Falklands, why doesn’t our Government agree to a legally-binding referendum asking the Chagossians if they want to go home? 

That should be the sole criterion for deciding whether we continue to lease the islands to the US. 

We forced these people to leave the home they loved. So, 50 years on, let’s finally give them the chance to go back to their paradise lost.

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